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posted 18 April 2016 at 11:01:19

Now that we've established that just about anyone can learn how to design for 3D print and produce good results, those geniuses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have pushed the boundary a bit further and claim that, after years of experimenting, they can now print solids and liquids simultaneously.

A research team at MIT adapted existing commercial 3D printers and developed a new technique, which they refer to in a recently published paper as 'printable hydraulics'. Basically, solid materials, such as robot hydraulics, are cured by UV light and the droplets remain in liquid form while incredibly thin layers are deposited during printing, allowing materials that are solids and liquids to sit and hold together on the layer. The breakthrough has the potential to allow complete robots to be 3D printed, with just the battery and motor being added later. A sort of 'robots to go'!

Daniela Rus, a scientist at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, says, 'We have a 3D printer that can lay out either solids or liquids and then we have an algorithm that decides when the printer should put down a water droplet or solid droplet. This allows us to create objects that were not possible to create before. It allows us to 3D print hydraulic mechanisms and incorporate them into the robot. The reason the liquids stay liquid is because they are enclosed in a mechanism of pipes.'

The MIT scientists have already printed a rudimentary robot (see image) but, taken to its ultimate conclusion, they believe that we may one day be able to print our own robots at home. How awesome is that?

Image: © MIT CSAIL